Sports

Women’s soccer moving forward to national championships

Maclaine Chadwick | Fulcrum Staff

Photo by Justin Labelle 

A new championship banner will be hung on the side of the Minto Sports Complex, the first one the University of Ottawa has seen since 2006.

After performing in an undefeated season and staying on top of the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) rankings for over half of it, the Gee-Gees were the team to beat during the 2012 Ontario University Athletics (OUA) playoff tournament on Nov. 3 and 4.

The tournament, held at the Matt Anthony Field, brought together four teams—the Gee-Gees, Queen’s University Gaels, Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks, and McMaster University Marauders—all fighting for the OUA championship and a spot at the CIS national championships from November 8-11 in Victoria, B.C.

The tournament resulted in the Gees clinching the gold medal, the Laurier Golden Hawks taking second place, and the Queen’s Gaels landing the bronze. The McMaster Marauders were the only participating team who won’t move on to the national championship.

Game one: Gees vs. Marauders

The weekend’s first challenge for the U of O was a game against the McMaster Marauders, which ended 1-0 in favour of the Gees. In one of the toughest games of their season, the Gees overcame the Marauders by one goal during the high-intensity playoff match.

It wasn’t until the 68-minute mark that midfielder Krista Draycott—assisted by first-year striker Kayla Jones—put a shot past Brittany Duffey, McMaster’s exceptionally strong third-year goalie.

“Full credit to [McMaster], I thought they played very well—they have a very good team,” said Gee-Gees head coach Steve Johnson.

“They brought it really hard; they wanted it just as much as we did,” added Draycott. “The intensity of the playoffs is always crazy—we’ve just got to keep working against that.”

Getting the win and moving forward to the gold-medal game guaranteed the Gee-Gees a trip to the CIS national championships, which accepts the gold-, silver-, and bronze-medaling teams from the OUA championships.

Following the game against McMaster, the Gaels took on the Laurier Golden Hawks to determine who would face the undefeated Gee-Gees in the following day’s gold-medal match.

Regardless of which team they faced, the Gees knew they were in for a difficult game.

“One of our main goals was to go to nationals, so I feel like now we can be relaxed,” said Draycott. “We are obviously in for a tough game tomorrow—whether it is Queen’s or Laurier—so we will be mentally preparing.”

Game two: Gees vs. Golden Hawks 

Overcoming the Gaels 5-4 during a penalty-kick showdown, the Laurier Golden Hawks were the team pitted against the Gees for Sunday’s gold-medal game. The game, which went into extra time, was scoreless until the 114-minute mark, when second-year Gees striker Pilar Khoury headed the ball past Laurier keeper Katrina Ward.

“I was winded, but it felt really, really good,” said Khoury, recalling her feelings after scoring the goal. “My whole goal this season was to help the team get to where we wanted to go, and to be a part of it is just amazing. Our first goal was to win OUA and then nationals, so we are just on to our second goal now.”

For many senior Gee-Gees, the winning game marks the last time they will play competitively on Matt Anthony Field, but that’s not the only reason why the game was monumental.

“No one on this team, including myself, has gotten the OUA gold,” explained graduating striker Christine Hardie. “The last banner we got was in 2006, so this is a collective highlight for everybody.”

Johnson also attributed some of the Gees’ success to goaltender Cynthia Leblanc, who—along with rookie goaltender Alexandra Girouard—allowed only one goal in a total of 19 games.

“We have an absolutely terrific goalkeeper,” said Johnson. “She allows everyone else on the team to be confident in the back line. We don’t give up many opportunities, but we know that if those opportunities occur, we will have somebody who is going to be able to save us.”

Thanks to terrific goaltending, many  of the tournament games were forced into extra time or determined by penalty kicks.  In the preceding game to determine the bronze-medal recipient, each goalie blocked four penalty kicks before Queen’s put a shot past McMaster—who were unable to respond with a goal—giving Queen’s the bronze medal and a trip to nationals.

Gee-Gees heading west 

With the OUA championship title under their belts, the Gees will head to Victoria, B.C. to compete for a national medal.

“I’m excited. I feel like we haven’t plateaued yet, and we are just on the up,” said Hardie. “This was one success, and I think medaling or gold medaling at nationals would just be the best.”

“The quality of the teams is going to be great,” said Khoury. “I’ve been [to nationals] last year and it was amazing…I’m really excited to be going back.”

Winning gold in the OUA championship gives the Gees a huge advantage going into nationals, explained Johnson.

“We are going in as conference champions; I think we have a good draw,” he said. “Hopefully we will be able to maintain our performance and perform to our ability….This is a team that plays a nice brand of soccer. I’m proud to take them to nationals and show them off.”

Fans can watch the Gee-Gees compete in the CIS national championship, hosted by the University of Victoria, at cis-sic.tv